Wednesday, May 24, 2017

David's First Communion (and the little story of a providential book)


This past Sunday our David had the incomparable gift of making his First Holy Communion! I have pictures to remember the day but first I need to share a story, if only so that this fickle heart of mine doesn't forget how He moves.

It was just a few weeks before he was set to make his First Holy Communion and I wasn't quite sure his heart was ready. We had been doing some of the things we try to do to help our kids prepare for such a special day. Adoration time, Confession, teaching, and more. But it just didn't seem like enough and I wondered whether we were failing, whether there was more he needed. On one of those mornings around that time I needed to make a quick stop to pick something up at the Carmelite monastery nearby. I bravely ventured out with all the boys, mostly because I needed to get it done and had no choice. But also because while it definitely makes the experience at one of my favorite places a bit less meditative, I really want them to visit there once in a while and soak in the palpable grace of that place (if only for a few minutes before the toddler has had enough of this ridiculous silence business). So I brought them. We hustled inside on yet another windy, frigid, and disappointingly chilly morning like so many before it, the ones that had been progressively dulling my energy and motivation for months. 

We spent a few minutes in their humble little office/store first - literally a tiny room just down the hall from the chapel with a few bookshelves hosting things like prayer cards made by the nuns, out of print books, and fifty cent scapulars. The boys browsed, comparing medals and debating whether splurging on the better scapulars was really worth it, while I picked up the things I needed from the secretary. He found a book on the shelf and brought it to me excited, wondering if we could get it. I was frazzled with keeping the octopus toddler on my lap from knocking things over, writing a check, making small talk with the secretary all the while making sure I didn't forget any of the things that were the whole purpose of the trip. I distractedly nodded that he could add it to the pile of devotionals to take home. It was only a few dollars and the loss wouldn't be huge if his enthusiasm turned out to last a few hours (which, honestly, was kind of what I was expecting). 

It wasn't until we got home a few hours later that I really looked at what he had chosen. 


We were probably too late to start it, I thought. Sigh. Figures. Oh well, maybe he'll read some of it anyway and something's better than nothing. And then I took a moment to count the days. That very day we went to the convent and spotted that book and made that unplanned and haphazard purchase was exactly 40 days before his First Communion. God, you are so good. 

Every morning from that day on, he did his little reflection in the morning on his own before getting out of bed. Every day he counted up the "flowers" he earned through the prompts in the book and wrote them down. I didn't have anything to do with it and he kept it up completely on his own. I won't pretend that he suddenly transformed into a saint but that little book was proof to me once again that God is living and active in my children's lives and loves them infinitely more than I ever can. It may not seem like much of anything to an outsider but it was yet another reminder needed to this forgetful mother's heart that they're His first and that He knows exactly what they need. He's a better parent than I could ever hope to be. He so very often makes up for the many ways that I lack and desires their hearts for Himself outside of my failures, my distractions, and my own limitations. And my girl Therese is pretty on top of things as well.

With that divinely ordained assistance came a lot more confidence that he really was ready for such a big day.

A week before the boys were asked to serve at the cathedral and this little man decides he also needed to straight up ask the bishop for a pre-First Communion blessing! 

Before the big morning!



He made it with several other children from our homeschool group at the other cloistered monastery in our city. You can hear the nuns behind the grill singing and it's so beautifully reverent. I love that they ask that no pictures be taken during the Mass. There's one designated photographer from our group that should have a few pictures from the Mass to share with us. 

The two littles did not do all that well at the Mass, unfortunately. But we made it through and Jesus was received and I did my ugly cry as the kids made their consecration to Mary and afterward as I hugged my sweet and so very proud and excited boy outside.



He insisted on using the champagne glass for his juice :)



A simple but nice spread! The weather didn't choose to cooperate (story of this year). It poured in the morning and was gray and sprinkly the rest of the day. At least not snowing?

Toasting David and Jesus :)


He designed his cake a few weeks before and told me what he wanted - a white circle cake (like the Eucharist) with a gold chalice and host above it. His name in Hebrew and Latin means "beloved of the Lord" so I put that on, too.

Just a few days before I decided to make these sweet favors for our guests. Thank you, Amazon for delivering this mold straight to our door in less than two days flat. It came with little favor bags included.

The cards I made years ago for my oldest's First Communion (I shared them here free if you'd like to print some yourself but I think you might need a Scribd account to access them now.) On the back they thank our guests for coming.

He was very proud and so attentive to making sure every one got one as they left!


Jesus, thank you for the incredible privilege of watching my own children know and receive You in Your very Flesh and Blood. Thank you for feeding them with Your very Self. There is nothing on earth that can compare. Thank you to all of you, too, that prayed for our David before his special day!



Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Feminine Genius of the Mother's Day Backlash



In the last few years, something strange has begun to happen on and before the second Sunday of May. In blog posts and status updates, conversations and commercials, we're suddenly seeing a whole lot of light shed on the hidden and hard side of Mother's Day. There has been a steadily growing and unprecedented response of compassion to those for whom Mother's Day is nothing but a sharp reminder of loss. 

And it is absolutely beautiful.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Junior Geologist's Birthday


We have new eight year old around here as of yesterday! 
He has a huge interest in dinosaurs (that was last year's birthday) and now he's added a penchant for geology into his hobbies. There is something about unearthing treasures that speaks to this boy! He loves fossils and stones and gems and almost every day he can get outside finds him running back in at some point with mud splattered pants and a treasure to show me...a new flower blooming, a cool rock from the field, a robin's egg shell. I love his enthusiasm and joy over nature! Eight is a fun age (even when this choleric makes it just a bit more than challenging sometimes!).


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

When I'm hurting, draw me closer.



It all started with the oatmeal.

It was supposed to be cereal - after all, it was Sunday - but lack of grocery prep and no milk in the house left us with the only breakfast option being the disappointment of the standard weekday fare.

The result was dealing with fits of epic proportions as we tried to get the whole family ready and out to Sunday Mass. It was brutal and unprecedented, at least on this level. We were frustrated, uncertain, angry, stressed, and at a loss for what to do. We did manage to get there and as the tear stained little boy sardined next to me in the crowded pew (the other one still recovering in the back with dad), I was thankful for the chance to breathe and pray before we decided what, if anything, needed to happen as a result of the morning behavior and struggle. 


Monday, April 17, 2017

Time Apart to Easter

Well, Easter is over. Time to shovel down the rest of the chocolate, pick all that blasted Easter grass from out of the rug, and get back to normal life agai... Just kidding! The official celebration of Easter lasts a full EIGHT days, guys! We have eight days of solemnities, the highest feast days of the Church, to revel in this mystery of the Resurrection and rejoice! (And the entire season lasts FIFTY!) Don't forget that! Let the wisdom of the Church lead your homes. 


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sweet Jesus, I Forgot.


Last night on Good Friday we rewatched The Passion of the Christ. I have seen it before, several times when it first came out and then I'd revisit it on Good Fridays of years past. The last few years, though, I would think about it and then talk myself right out of it. 

It's too much this year. 
My heart can't handle it. 
I've got a lot going on already.
Jesus doesn't *need* me to watch it.
I'll do something else quasi-penitential instead.

Some of which isn't necessarily wrong, of course, but they were all excuses. Ways for me to escape the visual and palpable reality of the cross. But last night we watched it. And I realized I really had forgotten. 



Monday, April 10, 2017

A (fancy) Night at the Museum


On Friday the husband and I had the chance to do a whirlwind overnight trip. He worked so hard this year, earning an award with his company and the all-expenses-paid awards fancy-people gala that goes with it. All expenses paid - like airfare for both of us to NYC, a luxury hotel in Manhattan, transportation everywhere, open bar, dinner, and dancing...there and back all in about 24 hours. What?! Who are we? He got this once before but at the time we had a little one who was too big to take with us but too little to leave home without us. It was really important for him to be there and while Ben is still nursing, he's so good natured and old enough that we were pretty sure he would do just fine for one night without us. So we took off!



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Pro-Life *is* Pro-Birth.



The first time I heard it, I actually wanted to cheer. Then I realized they actually meant it as an insult. The accusation and term is now flung in comboxes and rallies, "debates" and memes. The pro-life movement is only "pro-birth," don't you know? Not really caring about mothers or babies as long as the baby makes it out of the womb alive. There's much I could say about that as a 99% specious and ignorant charge as the accusers mean it, but instead I'd like to point out why the pro-life movement and a culture of life could and should be all about being truly pro-birth. 


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

lately. :: spring days, snow days, saint days


I didn't realize it was so long that I photo dumped here but my phone album begs to tell me otherwise. Remember the days when I could chronicle every family outing or little house or kid project? Good times. If I actually was cool and didn't hate phone-typing I may have been one of the many to migrate over to Instagram for this kind of stuff but for many reasons it just doesn't work for me. I like having my pics chronicled here in my own space.

On to life here lately. We had a few days of a spring tease...




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Turning Ten


Last week our Michael completed a decade and turned the big 1-0. I remember it being kind of a big deal when you got into double digits. I feel it even more so as a parent, I think! Ten feels so big. I'm amazed at how differently temperamented all our boys are. Michael is in many ways our melancholic. He internalizes, feels things deeply, and is slower to react. It can be confused with being unaffected or not noticing but he sees it all. It's kind of ironic that out of all of my kids, he was the one who barreled through birth the quickest! He's great at math, loves crafts and colors, and is such an innocent and classic kid. It brings me so much joy that the little things are enough for him. He's simple and innocent and sweet and I can't wait to see how God wants to work in his life.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Terror of Demons, Pray for Us.



It seems like the devil has been so busy lately - in the world, in the lives of those I know, and in my own life. It makes sense, I suppose, it being Lent and all. If Lent is the time when we enter into the desert with Jesus, then of course the one who wasn't afraid to go after Him would set his eyes next on the ones He loves. And if he couldn't win with him, how the anger of that loss must drive his rage to want to devour us instead. The devil doesn't need a new m.o. Why would he when we forget so easily every. single. time. that he's there watching and waiting for the right time to sink his fangs in? We always forget and that's why it's so important that we Christians remember that he's real and he hates us. We need to talk about it or we'll be lulled yet again back to sleep. He will do everything in his power (which more often than not simply entails keeping us drowsy) to keep us from experiencing the Resurrection. He particularly hates marriage and family life and it is often there where we most see his wreckage.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

(Psst...it's still okay to give up chocolate, too.)



There's a strangely interesting backlash on the Catholic internet against giving up chocolate for Lent and I have to admit, I find it...weird. I'm not even referring to one person or post. I've seen at least a couple dozen Facebook posts, ad campaigns, memes, comments and more urging people to do anything BUT give up chocolate. And I'm kinda like...huh? What did chocolate do to anyone (besides be delicious)? Or maybe there's a scandal and the Catholic internet is being paid off by big cocoa. On one hand people are saying that the little sacrifices matter, that God cares for the little daily offerings we can give Him, but apparently that just DOES NOT apply to the stress chocolate I've shoved into my mouth for the third time today. I'm a third laughing, a third kinda puzzled, and a third wondering how many people are maybe harboring and rationalizing some serious addictions to the bean. But I guess more than anything I'm just kind of surprised by the amount of people who seem to think that sacrificing something (even if they deem it small or boring) doesn't have merit for its own sake.



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

ACOG's 11 "New" Recommendations for Birth (that we've kinda been saying all along)



Finally! Have you heard? If you or someone you know will be having a baby soon, I hope you have! The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists just recently (finally!) came out with some new recommendations for labor and birth and they're kind of a big deal. It's what many mothers and birth advocates have been begging for for years and ACOG is finally admitting that for most women, some common hospital protocols have not truly been evidence based. In fact, many times the unreasonable requirements of these protocols have frustrated normal labors and caused complications that could have been prevented. 

This is important. This isn't just for "birthy" folk. We need to care about these kinds of things because they directly affect the health of the most vulnerable among us and they affect the dignity with which women and babies are treated. The way women experience their births has a direct effect on families and on how they enter into their motherhood. We need to insist that women and babies are always treated with the utmost of dignity and respect and with solid, evidence-based care that honors the design of God for our bodies and for birth.


Monday, February 20, 2017

lately :: winter days, babies, tree tapping, and more ::


Winter hasn't been too hard on us this year. We have only gotten snow a handful of times and never more than a few inches at a time. January was extremely gray and rainy, though. I think, quite literally, that we only saw the blue sky for a few moments on one day out of the whole month. So with that preceding, February is starting to get long and feel very much like February does. BUT this week is slated to creep into the 50's and there's been a few days of sunshine already so yay! Thanks, God.  


Monday, February 6, 2017

The 3 Books Every Catholic Parent Should Read



There are a lot lot lot of books on parenting and marriage out there. It's actually kind of overwhelming, isn't it? I've read and like some of them but I recently spent some time rereading a few things that I read long ago when I was just a young single whippersnapper piling up loans and filling my stomach with ramen noodles. While I really loved them then and they helped put me on the path towards my vocation, when I reread them now as a wife and mom....woah. Everything is stunningly true and applicable to me right here, right now.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What Saint John Bosco Teaches Me About Parenting



While in college, I met Saint John Bosco. Back then he was assigned as reading and study for those of us in the theology/religious education track at school. I enjoyed learning about him and what his methods could teach us about evangelization and catechesis and ministry. But it wasn't until I entered my vocation as a wife and mother, now with five little boys of my own counting on me for their education and evangelization, that his words and method became so much more profound. I'm no great expert on his life and I certainly have a long way to go in applying his methods well but they teach me SO much about the type of mother I want to be and what to do to get there. His words are so practical and they are filled with love. When I read them I can't help but be convicted and inspired. Here's a few of my favorite quotes along with what I glean from them for my own mothering and teaching of these little people God's given me:


Monday, January 30, 2017

Where Is the Church in Pregnancy, Miscarriage, and Birth?



I’ve had the feeling myself and I’ve heard it expressed among a lot of friends. “Where is the Church during …?” At the most difficult or the most profound moments of our lives, we want…something. Something official that shows that these huge and life-altering moments are recognized by the body of Christ. We want support, guidance, love, concern, and help and it makes sense that we expect the Church to provide that. Considering my own current state in life as a young(ish?) mom and a birth and bereavement doula, it makes sense that I most hear it in regard to the seasons of pregnancy or in regard to birth or miscarriage. Why doesn’t the Church do more for pregnant women? Does the Church care about me as I get ready to have this baby? Why aren’t there official resources to help women after a miscarriage? If the Church is so pro-life and claims she values every single human person, then how does she show it for these very real babies?



Sunday, January 29, 2017

Celebrating Saint John Bosco


I have a particular love for Saint John Bosco. I love his philosophies of rearing children and education. I love his practical, no-nonsense advice for life. I love his heart for teaching and training boys that the world thought were hopeless. God called this Italian priest in the 1800's to found a school for these boys and train them in a life of virtue. For that reason, he was claimed some years ago as patron of our little homeschool here and I feel like he has a special watch over our family. I think it's particularly neat that his birthday is the same day as our wedding anniversary.

His feast day is on January 31 and we'll be taking some time to honor our patron! 



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How I Doula as a Homeschooling SAHM of 5



About five years ago, I became certified as a birth doula. It's a challenging, rewarding, difficult, and amazing gift to be able to do it. I wasn't sure when I first started the training where it would lead but I felt like God was leading me there so I stepped out and started. I've learned and changed so much since starting. Since then, I've been asked lots of times how I make the whole birth doula work when I'm a homeschooling mom of five little people, some just curious and some wondering if they could do it themselves. There is a huge need for all types of legit doulas (birth, postpartum, and bereavement), especially women of faith. I truly believe that building a culture of life includes real tangible support for mothers during pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and through loss. I'd encourage any woman who's feeling a little nudge to pray and see if it would work for her and her family, even on a limited basis. If it truly is God's will, He'll work out the details.

First, I guess I should share a quick basic summary of the nuts and bolts I provide for official clients:
1 free interview, 2 prenatal meetings, 24/7 on call availability from 37 weeks on, email/phone support anytime during pregnancy, physical/emotional/informational/spiritual support from active labor until 1-2 hours after birth, 1 postpartum follow up meeting

So, how do I do that as a homeschooling, stay at home mom to 5 littles?


Monday, January 23, 2017

Our Ben Right Now


Our Ben is still bringing so much joy. Yesterday he turned 20 months and his spirit is just indescribable. I know I've said it before but the way he's changed our home is so beautiful and he has added so much that I didn't even know was missing. I was so scared when I was pregnant with him and that must've made God laugh a bit, with that all-knowing way of His of what was in store for us. I'm inclined to think that he is a gift just for our little family to really understand since I suspect to everyone else he just seems like a normal quirky one year old. But he has made our lives happier, more compassionate, more peaceful, and more loving. He genuinely makes me want to be a better person which sounds really dramatic but is completely true. There's just something about him. I was totally bracing myself as he entered the toddler stage (which is not where my motherhood and temperament are, ahem, naturally suited) but so far, even that's been pretty great. Brian and I are still in awe multiple times a day with just how amazing he is and his big brothers are all still pretty smitten, too. (WOW. That was a mom gush. But my blog so that's that.)

So, capturing some of Ben right now:

Good natured and happy nearly all the time. It's incredible. He has his moments, of course, but even those are so tame. 

He loves to dance and definitely prefers faster music. We joked that because he came out feet first when he was born that he would be dancer and I think he's trying to live up to it. His signature latest move is tiptoeing in a circular walk-run with arms in either a slow flap or gospel praise position. It's the best. Whenever I put music on he gets visibly excited and waits to hear what it is and in between songs worries that it's over.




Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Uncovering My Eyes to See


I've been thinking a LOT lately about accepting grace and allowing God to actually do what we ask of Him, and then? Then being free to acknowledge that He has. I'm not sure if this will make sense or not but this past year I've felt a change and saw some little tendencies where I have a hard time letting go of my ideas of who I am and what my struggles are. I see the same reflected in other women during conversations as well. I don't know whether it's just that there is a comfort in the familiarity (even the negative stuff) or if there is something that scares us about being better. Maybe it feels like pride to admit when we no longer struggle with something. Maybe it's that we have made this sin or wound or fault or weakness so much a part of our identity that we don't know how to let it go. I don't know, perhaps there is something different behind it. But I've been coming around in the last year to the idea that God is not honored by that. (And someone else, of course, would love for us to stay clinging to our dark and less than ideal parts.) Clutching the old - whether it is sin, sickness, wounds, ugly or destructive attitudes, or even just ideas about ourselves - that God has touched and brought healing and hope to (even if not completely) is...well, it's kinda rude.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

lately :: Christmas remnants ::


Catching up on just a few little memories over Christmas and up through Epiphany...

A trip to the five and dime - where nothing is either five or a dime.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Beginning of Christmas 2016


Merry Christmas and happy new year! 

Finally jumping on to record some of the beginning of our Christmas. It's been good...more relaxed than I expected. I overestimated how much we had planned to do so there's been much more downtime than I thought there would be. Which is...nice? But I totally admit that it leaves me feeling antsy. I do like playing games and puzzles and easy meals but I'm not as good with not knowing in the morning what the goals are for the day. Even if the goal is just to relax and have a cozy day with leftovers for dinner, it needs to be a part of The Plan or all day long I have that nagging feeling like I'm forgetting something. Anyone else? But on the very bright side, I think God's been giving me this unexpected extra time to work on a few big projects and I'm trying to use the time well. I also took a break from doulaing for a couple months and it's been a welcome break from being on call 24/7, especially over Christmas! 


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